Lydia Copeland Gwyn ~ Half Moon

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It was morn­ing, and the day was white and soft with a low fog that had start­ed the night before in the tree­tops and slow­ly shrugged to the ground. Our water line had frozen, which hap­pened a lot in the win­ter. So many days we walked behind our father look­ing for the source of the freeze, feel­ing the black, rub­ber line for give and pres­sure, cut­ting branch­es in our path, mak­ing things clear again. I watched the for­est floor for flow­ers that only showed in spring and sum­mer. Hearts burst­ing with love with its pink hood and sus­pend­ed beads of orange blood. The half-moon pur­ple petals of a blue­bell. Some bright hue in the end­less bald of white and brown days.

We fol­lowed behind our father and his hand­saw. The saw was a met­al trape­zoid with a glossy han­dle and a mat­te gray blade. In its usu­al place on the wall of our kitchen, the saw made a fine-toothed fence around the pink cab­bage ros­es of the wall­pa­per. In our father’s hand, it swung with the strides of his body, occa­sion­al­ly knock­ing against his knee-high wad­ing boots. My brother’s knit hat kept slid­ing off his head, and I kept stop­ping to pick it up, brush­ing the leaves from its red wool. We walked up the moun­tain past the young pines and into our rent­ed 80 acres.

We passed an old cal­ci­um cave, a place we were told nev­er to go. But on sum­mer days while our father worked and our moth­er washed a sink full of cups, then plates, then sil­ver­ware, we’d walk up the moun­tain to stand at the entrance of the cave and gulp its con­stant air. We hoped we were swal­low­ing quartz par­ti­cles, smoky and smooth, rose and yel­low. We’d reach our hands into its cool mouth, feel­ing noth­ing but a cel­lar-like air, see­ing only dark­ness.

Half-way up the moun­tain, we found the bad spot in the water line. We knew how our father fixed it, and we would do the same our­selves one day. We watched him as he loos­ened the met­al cup­ping, and opened the soft black pipe. We saw a fin­ger of ice slip out, and all the pent up water flowed again. The source of the water was a shal­low spring that came up warm out of the ground and cooled its way down the moun­tain and into the pipes of our house, where in sum­mer our moth­er added icy drops of it to her pie crusts.

The for­est was qui­et in the win­ter, a kind of qui­et with its own pres­ence, an alive noth­ing­ness that spied on us, watch­ing our snow-suit­ed bod­ies walk up the trail, watch­ing the puffs of breath leave our mouths. My broth­er was small, a grown baby with bursts of baby emo­tion and the chest­nut eyes of a singer/songwriter. I wish I could reach back to the girl-me and tell her to pay more atten­tion. One day—when he was near­ly a man—my broth­er would die. And for the rest of my life I would dream of his body in an unzipped body bag or under a mound of red clay, shut in the earth, sock­ets crum­bling, expres­sions falling away.

~

Lydia Copeland Gwyn’s sto­ries have appeared in Nano Fiction, Elm Leaves Journal, Glimmer Train, Florida Review and oth­ers. Her work has been nom­i­nat­ed for a Pushcart Prize, and her chap­book won sec­ond place in the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook con­test. She lives in East Tennessee with her hus­band, son, and daugh­ter.